In a decisive pivot from last year, a solid plurality of Americans now believe Covid-19 leaked from a lab in Wuhan, China, a new poll finds—a sign the renewed interest in the possibility among experts and lawmakers has had a cascading effect on public opinion.
Roughly 46% of U.S. adults think Covid originated with a lab leak, a Morning Consult survey found, while 26% believe the virus began naturally, and 28% say they don’t know or have no opinion.
The poll of 2,200 adults, which was conducted June 4-7, shows Americans are starkly divided along party lines on the question: a whopping 70% of Republicans believe in the lab leak theory, while just 41% of independents and 32% of Democrats say the same.
The party split is reversed when it comes to the natural spread theory: 40% of Democrats think Covid originated naturally, while 22% of independents and just 11% of Republicans also agree.
Unsurprisingly, an overwhelming majority of Americans lack trust in the Chinese government and the Wuhan Institute of Virology—the lab some suspect to be the origin of the leak—to be “transparent and honest about the origin of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Just 17% of Americans say they have some or a lot of trust in the Chinese government, while 21% say the same about the Wuhan lab.
More than half of Americans have trust in the World Health Organization (56%) and U.S. intelligence agencies (55%) to be forthcoming about the origin of Covid-19.
Not So Big Number
29%. That’s the percentage of Americans who believed Covid-19 came from a lab in a Pew study released last April. Most of the respondents who believed in the lab theory said they thought it was intentionally released from a lab (26%), while just 6% said it accidentally leaked. A plurality of respondents (43%) said it came about naturally.
Most scientists, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, continue to believe the virus originated in animals in the wild and was transmitted to humans. However, many health experts have recently called to give the lab leak theory a second look after scientists and the media downplayed the possibility last year. In May, a group of 18 prominent scientists published a letter in Science stating the lab leak and natural spread theories both remain “viable” until more research is conducted and the Wall Street Journal reported details of a U.S. intelligence report that found several Wuhan Institute of Virology scientists were hospitalized with Covid-like symptoms in November 2019, weeks before the disease was first identified. The WHO’s initial probe into the virus’ origins found it was “extremely unlikely” it escaped from a lab, but did not come to a formal conclusion.
Republicans who were early proponents of the theory, including Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and former President Donald Trump have taken a victory lap as momentum builds behind the lab leak theory.
What To Watch For
Last month, President Joe Biden said intelligence agencies have “coalesced around two likely scenarios” for the origin of Covid-19, including the lab-leak theory and zoonotic spillover. He called on officials to “redouble their efforts” to come to a conclusion on the virus’ origin over the next few months.